“President” of FAMU Band Charged in Tragic Hazing Death
It’s been almost a year since Robert Champion was beaten to death in a hazing incident but Dante Martin has become the 12th person charged. Champion was killed during an alleged hazing incident where band members beat him on Florida A&M University’s band bus C in 2011. His senseless death made national headlines and raised questions about hazing at FAMU.
Martin was allegedly the unofficial president of Bus C in 2011, reports USA Today. He was added as a defendant in the criminal case according to new court documents.
The charges filed by the prosecution: felony hazing in Champion’s death.
Detectives allege that Martin organized the hazing events on Bus C although prosecutors have not confirmed that, according to USA Today. Martin has also pled not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of hazing in a related incident.
The tragic events that led to Champions death involved a hazing ritual known as ‘crossing Bus C.’ Initiates of the ritual had to move from the front to the back of the bus while other band members assaulted them using their hands, feet, and other objects. Hazing is a serious offense that seems to be commonplace at all levels of sports, school, and social organizations that many states have taken steps to punish.
It’s considered more than just simple assault, however, even though it’s as serious crime in itself. Hazing requires that the injury happens as a result of some kind of initiation ritual into a club or organization. It is also possible to charge someone with hazing if no injury occurs but the initiation is dangerous enough to likely cause harm.
Reports of ‘crossing Bus C’ indicate that it was part of the initiation into the group, according to Orlando Sentinel. It’s also clear that Champion died of injuries that could be linked to physical assault. The trial will determine whether the defendants were actually participants in a hazing incident. In Martin’s case, there have been no allegations that he ever hit anyone according to his attorney. But that doesn’t negate the charges.
Hazing isn’t just the act itself. In many states, it’s also illegal to organize such rituals or to encourage others to participate. The charges against the defendants are all criminal but that doesn’t preclude civil charges as well. The investigation into Robert Champion’s death appears to be ongoing for now. Dante Martin is the latest person charged in the incident but he may not be the last.
Hazing is a strange phenomenon associated with the desire to be part of a group. It is difficult to understand why so many people subject themselves to so much pain and suffering in order to “belong.” It does not help that the vast majority of the participants in these rituals are younger; school age or slightly older – hazing is extremely common in the military as well. It may have something to do with the vulnerability of that age, in conjunction with the fact that some parts of the brain, particularly the frontal cortex, which regulates violent or antisocial behavior, and decision-making, is not fully developed until well into a person’s twenties.